Short Story : Halted Movements
Silence is deafening, but never complete. I have spent four years searching for a moment of true silence. The first step is to be completely alone, which is easily accomplished. After a few hours, hyperawareness kicks in. Sounds begin to grow, sounds which often evade attention during a normal day. The whoosh of the air conditioning, complimented by the uneven clatter of a loose bolt in the vent. The soft hum of the refrigerator, with the sporadic dumping and refilling of the ice tray. The faint clicking of the timer for the water heater, coupled with the appliance cycling on and off.
Today is stormy, my window and wall let in the howling wind and rain. On these days, all the lights are out; darkness surrounds me. The only light allowed in is emitted from the storm. The flash proceeding a sharp crack momentarily reminds me of the space I am still residing in; my separation from the weather's domain, protected but not safe. Today should be the model for many more. Only my voice breaks the silence, though the room's silence is never complete. The storm ensures that particular condition cannot exist. A comforting embrace from nature, partially blocking out the world and its noise. Replacing it with music, with a rolling rhythm, blast of wind and bellowing bass.
Staring out into the storm from within the embrace of darkness, the glass of the window disappears, joined by the hum of modern convenience. It is replaced with the echo of a drip, leaking in from behind where I'm seated. A rush of warm, tropical air flows over me from an opening ahead, inviting in the soft rain falling a few feet away. The dampness of this cave becomes suddenly apparent. The storm has calmed enough to risk venturing out and begin scouting my surroundings.
Storm clouds continue to conceal the sky, filtering much of the light flowing down. I emerge from the cave to find a small ledge for a porch. I peer over the edge at an impenetrable canopy of trees a sharp drop below. Behind me, the cliff climbs up another hundred feet, then suddenly yields to the sky. The cut provides at least another spot of protection, if a path can be found to reach it. I survey the face to find a path, searching for the one with least resistance. The first mistake on this rock-face will leave me plummeting down below. The first handhold glistens from a stray ray escaping the clouds. The soft drizzle has coated every surface with a glaze of slickness. Maybe a climb is not the best idea today.
The clouds are dissipating to the west. The sun is steadily creeping towards the horizon. The gray sky is receding into a soft pink and red. I re-enter the cave and resume occupying my position in the middle of everything. Slowly, the humidity of the forest evaporates and a group of glass panes once again seals off the outside world. The silence resumes its standard melody as the living canvas outside creates an interplay of shadows in.
The window gives life to my space. Its circular form draws all attention from the room; it is the recipient to most of mine. I film the world through its lens; record the self-guided direction which leads to nowhere. The stage rarely changes, yet the actors rotate frequently. The recognition of this production is mine alone. The show captures my attention much more than a screen does; their moving forms are merely imitations of reality. There is a constant stream of story lines interacting and combining, many with the same open-ended conclusions and underlying repetition. Advertisements, product placement, and glossy images are abundant; the friendly reminder of all the lifestyles I don't live, generously offering a solution.
Last year, the city built a pool a block over, just within the frame of my sight. I have never visited a public pool, but they have interested me lately. The pool functions as a petri dish. People grow and recede, as bacteria does, dependent upon how much heat is applied. The brisk winter air has left the experiment barren, save a maintenance man retrieving leafs from the surface.
Windows are designed to be a stage, they are adorned with their own curtain. The curtain reminisces the theatre, offering a personal stage. The window is an architectural flat screen, the curtain, mother nature's power button. The warmth of natural light, both visually and physically, defeats the coldness of an LED. Modern window coverings surprisingly side with natural light. Blinds offer similar covering as a curtain, yet allow much more light through. Blinds design the projections and paint the space, creating mobile compositions which play across the apartment.
The sky displays a particularly crisp, clear blueness today; a quality only present after turmoil. The storm cleanses the sky for the sun to take lead once again. This morning the sun's front will mount an expedition through my apartment. As its march heats the floor and illuminates the dust, its cloud engulfs me in its grasp. Melted away, the window is a puddle on the floor, my one barrier removed.
I cautiously walk through the newly formed entrance. The glaring sun momentarily blinds as my eyes adjust from the darkness of the cave. Ahead is an all too familiar forest. Turning around to inspect my path up the cliff side, no hazards present themselves to impede the trip. Finding a starting point, I connect together a path of solid footings to carry me up. I grasp onto the first handhold, giving it a quick tug to ensure its holding. The first foothold is given the same treatment; a strange figure begins dancing up the cliff side. Stuttering and faltering every seventh beat, as if the phonograph has a metronomic skip. About three quarters of the way up, a handhold crumbles under my weight, sending my arm and its appendages swinging backwards; the needle has hopped off the record. Two hour-long minutes pass as I regain composure and balance. Slowly, the dance restarts. First running through the steps in theory, then implementing them at a gradually increasing pace. Finally, the ledge is overhead. Two more moves and I will be able to enter a new landscape. Standing up and looking back at the view that has watched the performance, the final resonance into silence. Nostalgia sends a monumental wave for the vacated dwelling.
Starting to slowly step backwards, I peruse the scene for the last time. Every few steps is met with a sharp crunch, offering no physical resistance under foot. Abruptly, my progress is stopped. I swing around to find a dark column, rising up two hundred feet before me. These behemoths form a line from either end of the plateau, none offering an access point into their canopy. The sun's position signals the begin of her return home, putting the pressure on me to find shelter before nightfall. Upon entering the forest I join in its quartet. The sound of flapping wings, wind gently passing through the forest, the hushed rustling of some small creature in the distance, and the soft shuffling of leaves all around. My footsteps introduce a new rhythm to the music.
Time seems glacial in a forest of monotony. The retreat of the already limited lighting is the only indication of the impending darkness of night. I have already travelled too far to have any hint towards a way back, or even a way out. My head is set to oscillate as I move further into the forest. From my peripheral, a flash breaks the backdrop. My head snaps back to catch a glimpse. Most likely, a small creature was the source of the stir; a squirrel or a bird in flight towards their home for the evening. Quickly regaining the rhythm of oscillation, I move forward with slightly more fervor. Light is becoming scarce. Straining to look ahead, all I see is black at a distance. As I focus a little harder, the black disappears. My movement is halted. That wasn't merely a play of light, that could disappear that suddenly. A quick crunch flashes in the distance from the opposite direction. The forest's music has stopped, I am alone with my thoughts and whomever is in the distance. I pick a direction and launch, avoiding as many leaves as possible-tracking mechanisms for my progress. I momentarily glance behind, hoping nothing breaks the horizon.
Two miles further, my pace slackens. My lungs cannot maintain pace with my legs. Through heavy exhalations, the forest has resumed her song. Scanning the visible land, nothing catches my attention. The light has nearly vacated the area, my pupils are at full extension in order to find enough atmosphere that my vision can process. Under heavy strain, eyes produce colors invisible to the world. Each blink explodes into an expansive canvas. Within this shifting, a single red dot persists. When my line of sight changes, so does the position of this speck, flying out of the scene with one sharp twist. Becoming a beacon in the near pitch black air, I follow its glow for a few hundred paces, tripping over roots and fallen branches. The dot grows marginally with every few paces. Caught by a relatively large root, I jump forward to fly over it and find myself falling down into the ground. The pitch black engulfs me, disorienting any sense of direction remaining within my grasp. Over to my left, three stacked beacons stare from a short distance, a barely noticeably red glow grazes me. A cool rush overtakes the surroundings, overpowering the forest’s melody, replacing it with a soft hum and clatter.
From a distance, people are interesting to watch. It has to do with a disconnect; an impenetrable atmosphere which only sight can readily traverse. The activities they are engaged in do not have to be particularly unusual either, the presence of activity is enough, a motion to captivate the eye while I ingest my morning cereal. Across the divide is a gentlemen pouring himself some cereal and haphazardly cutting fruit for topping. I performed this act only five minutes earlier, yet it is a boring routine for me, while it is a compelling episode when viewed through exposing windows.
Each window brings a new channel; product placement an individual's preference. If I ever feel my routine needs a change, the new element to introduce can be found here. Experimentation has guided me to my current schedule, it still feels forced though. The coffee is always slightly bitter, the toaster unpredictable. The lack of conclusion is the most troublesome. The final change in surroundings should mark the ending of the routine, the shift to a new schedule matched for an environment offering new challenges. Instead, the chair is my final step. The morning sun pours in, warming up the room through the luxury of the greenhouse effect.
I break from my private viewing to watch water and dish soap blend with the coffee swirling down the sink. As I close off the faucet, a slight breeze overtakes the kitchen; my window does not open. A soft rustling crawls across the apartment, breaking the silence of the surroundings. With each step closer to the vent, a fragile, brittle layer thickens underfoot. Slightly tilting my head up, my eyes are met with an interrogation of off-white and shadows. A distant chirp initiates the symphony filtering in. A short, solid clank accompanies my chair pushing against the wall, providing the additional height needed to obtain a better view. My ascension is met with more leaves and a wall of wooden columns a short distance away. No motion can be discerned as my eyes scan the ground. I follow each doric column up until an anomaly catches my sight. Roughly three quarters of the way up exists a platform, which partially obscures a passage from my vantage point. Blinking to refresh my screen, the passage remains. Quietly inching slightly further out of the tunnel, I attempt to gain a better view.
As I adjust my line of sight, I see what appears to be a shelf grown out of the tree, right next to a door. Placed upon it, a single orchard. Suddenly, a shadow jumps across the frame. Back and forth it moves, to an erratic rhythm, kicking up anything in its way. Attached to the shadow is a hand and arm which is supplying the motion and the soft scratching of straw against wood. It seems they are living in the trees; the doorway to their dwelling grown into the tree. Indulging in the craving for a yet better vantage point, I risk another crawl further, this attempt punished by a loud crunch. My head snaps back up, hoping they had not heard it. I watch as their head spins around to catch a distant horizon, then disappears into the tree. The keen hearing and flight instinct is reminiscent of a bird. A review of the remaining skyline reveals twelve more shelters; all reflecting the vacancy experienced with the first. The haunting feeling of preying eyes has yet to take hold over my entrance, just a soft, slow creak added to the symphony, so subtle it is barely audible during its introduction. With everyone in cover, now may be the time to move. Deliberation does not take long; not nearly as long as the creak has been droning on. Each movement forward its resonance grows. A few snaps and pops join in, their rhythm initially irregular, but soon falling into pace. The drama builds as the atmosphere bears down on me with increasing force, something much heavier than hidden eyes are judging me. I fling my body around, landing square with my back against the ground in time to watch the sun, followed by the sky, eclipsed. The symphony has reached a height, the atmosphere has me pinned, a blink to clear my eyes removes all light as a momentous tremor overtakes the surroundings, engulfing me.
Cheap speakers blaring a top ten hit every morning is no way to awaken. A more passive aggressive intrusion is preferred, especially when a timely interruption of sleep is unnecessary. The city operates under the time table of the mass. As seven passes, the sun breaks the horizon, effectively extinguishing Davy's lights. By eight, the crooning of yellow carbon-consuming beasts break any artificial silence possible in a city. Any transportation above ground travels at the pace of a brisk walk, digging deeper yields slightly quicker results. At ten, the city falls back into its groove, the commotion only slightly relaxed until the following return home. A similar cycle occurs during the succeeding seven, eight, and ten hours, as the night shift resume their positions at the graveyards and bars. Late night programming is less scripted than its counterpart, but unappreciated without it.
The evening sun has managed to crawl down to stare me in the eye. Twelve hours have vanished, an occurrence whose frequency is growing. I wouldn't list losing time as a proficiency, but recently I have become fairly adept at it. Which crevice the time is swept into, I have yet to determine. The second shift has begun to ring, its echoes reverberating through my sealed-off room.
I walk through the window onto a wooden deck. A handrail runs the length a few feet away. To my right is a table with an empty vase, a broom propped against the corner. Staring out, a sea of columns obstruct the real horizon. Looking around, a small portal to the left hints at a break in the monotony. The forest is still, each step I make across the floor echoes through the vicinity. As my awareness heightens to the interruptions, I gingerly advance each step to reduce my pollution. Approaching the edge, my shuffling steps knock over a rope ladder. I jump up to sit down on the handrail, vaulting my legs over and sinking onto the first step. No wind challenges as I climb down the forty seven steps separating from the ground. The final drop ends with a sharp crunch underfoot and the echo of fleeing birds off in the distance.
I peer up at the underside of the deck, reorienting myself to the direction of the clearing. This walk is much more peaceful, as I hop for rock to root to stone, emitting as little noise as possible. Beside a few precautionary glances forward, I ignore all except my footing in the forest. Four miles of forest are passed when a cool breeze begins infiltrating the air. The stillness of the forest is interrupted by a soft crashing. The ground begins to give way, retaining more of an impression with each step. Suddenly, the forest opens up to an expanse of blue, green, and tan. The force of the change momentarily freezes me at the edge of the dunes. Surveying the shoreline, I find nothing breaking its line except waves. I position bare feet against wet sand, and take each step avoiding a sharp crystal from the ocean. Every few steps initiates a quick scan of the horizon, looking for another body of land to explore.
My skin commences to poorly imitate a chameleon, initiating a soon-to-be painful semi-permanent shade. The tides have turned and the sand is beginning to win the contest. The consideration of each step has slackened. I approach a line of tall grass running close to the water's edge, narrowly falling short of blocking off the path. As I shuffle around the corner, I scan the emerging beachfront, searching for anything breaking the monotony of the coast. A blinding reflection halts me at a point, as I analyze what it could be and if my eyes are deceiving. No haze blurs my vision. I resume my excursion at a quickened pace, quickly approaching what grows into a sizable sailboat. Circling around the hull, no visible damage can be found. Climbing onto the deck reveals a solid deck, helm, and wrapped up sails of unknown condition. In the middle of the deck a small hatch opens up into a barely human sized shelter. Still, it is enough to avoid the gleaming sun for a few hours. I cautiously slide in, allowing the sea breeze to overcome the small space and slowly heal the wounds from the pounding sun. I close the shutter on my eyes, allowing the sounds of gradual erosion to pull away my consciousness.
Captivity in a sphere of certainty has advantages; certainty is not one of them. Strolling down a lively street first thing in the morning, the senses are barraged with numerous enticing distractions. Focusing on a destination is a force of will to not indulge the draw of the senses. Every corner introduces a new wafting of fresh ground coffee brewing, every block a new evolving portrait with each participant's movements constantly erased, the blaring utterance of a taxi perturbed at the existence of anything remotely in its path. Bakeries offer the greatest temptation. The aroma of fresh baked bread is an incomparable indulgence. On rare occasions, the scent will climb through my window, attempting to draw me back into the street.
A different scent shatters my trance, a whiff whose visit I have been expecting. Freshly distilled coffee fills the room. I move through the room creating my own flow; on the street, the flow follows the mass. Collisions create an unexpected disturbance that frustrates all involved. Spilling a coffee on someone does not lay the seed to bud into soul mates. Store fronts are as numerous as people; each aiming to guide them where they need to be, where they want to be; where I long to be.
A slow, drawn sip breaks the stillness of the room. With the soothing warmth, a cloud of steam rolls up dominating every sense into its grasp. The midnight liquid lays still. The surface gives an impression of its surroundings. An idea of a man stares at me, motionless. This fragile impression becomes shattered with a rogue vibration. The silhouette attempts to return between waves, but its permanence is unobtainable. A tumultuous baseline is quickly established.
The erratic pitching is transferred to my environment, as I find myself in a vessel being tormented by the raving ocean. A constantly changing wall of water is a threatening inconvenience. The howling wind is of no use to the confined sails, whose control would be elusive at best. I achieve a summit every few minutes, followed by a rapid descent. Water washes the deck, slowly carrying away my anxiety. After lengthy exposure, the irregularity of the ocean becomes a comfort. Poseidon's rage has yet to inflict serious harm, only a rattling shake; Zeus has hardly taken interest in the scene, consequently leaving a dimly lit stage.
With each wave thundering across the deck, my hands tighten around the wooden handles of the helm, my one anchor in the turmoil. The heavy sprinkling of fresh water is lost in the soakings of salt, both slowly leeching away my strength. My glance constantly changes direction as I study the tempest chasing me in the midst of ocean tremors. What is presented in front of me takes priority; steering into each mountain rising before me, planning the angle of my ascent and avoiding flight on each return voyage. I am slow to realize the helm is offering me nothing more than a challenging hand hold, offering little resistance to the will of the waves. At the peak of the Sierra Nevada's, a sizzling roar shreds through the air, launching and coursing through the main-mast. A scorched road map documents the incident. Two more climbs cycle before the next strike rattles the mizzen-mast. The residual energy clings to my soaked hair. Another scar etched into the wooden spires. Three more climbs pass without incident. Absorbed charge from the last shock has carried away the remaining disbelief. Comfort in the storm is an unusual bliss. Relinquishing control to forces which elude it, navigating the microcosms within it.
The light show is losing pace. My climbs have lessened slightly in altitude. Fresh water pours down with less ferocity; its dilution in salt is weakening. My hands relax on the helm, revealing slight impressions. Spinning the helm, I register a change in heading. Ease has gained control. The monumental movements of the vessel have diminished into a gentle swaying of lessening frequency. I risk a step away from the helm, fearing my feet have become permanently attached to the deck. My body naturally joins in the rhythm of the ocean as I slowly mark my course across the short deck. I unlatch the hatch to my micro cabin within the boat. Halfway in, I scan the surroundings once more, basking in the refreshed atmosphere before disappearing into the opening fully, pulling snugly the hatch over the entrance once more.
Music often contains instinctual qualities under its polish. Melophobia is beginning to take hold of the atmosphere, when the CD begins to skip. I reach over and perform a quick double tap on the play/pause button to resume the track on its normal course, yet that line has been subtly altered. The underlying rhythm has become accentuated to my ears. I close my eyes and allow the charging rhythm to whisk me up and carry me to an unexplored space. The faint whisper of the speakers joins in with the marching of rhythm.
While this rhythm has been transporting me to another interpretation, I open my eyes to find a change of scenery has accompanied the alteration. Felt underneath my downward palms, I trace the top of the plump leather bench. My eyes continue the outline into a dimly lit room; the only illumination are cold streams of LED light placed at regular intervals across the wall.
Details continue to reveal themselves as my pupils adjust to the diminished lighting. To my right is the adjacent wall, which my bench is pushed against. A line of windows run down the length of the wall. Inspecting the one closest to me, I look out and almost nothing is to be seen. I track the edge to find it bordered with an excessive number of bolts; each one barely a half inch gap from the next. As I place my fingers onto the pane, they momentarily recoil; the surface is much cooler than the atmosphere of the room discloses. Adjusting my line of sight down the row of benches, I return my attention to the inside of the room. My view is unobscured towards the wall. Above the soft clicking of the cabin, a faint snore interrupts the rhythm in irregular segments. Its source is unseen from my post. A survey of the room reveals no attendants observing movements either in person or through a lens.
I break the connection between the leather, and with minimal noise, I leave only a divot to mark my time there. I carefully advance towards the opposite side of the cabin. Each step unites me with the swaying of the cabin, matching its dance as we both move forward. As each row progressively joins the others passed, the only life I find is the buzzing of a lone fly.
A door is my final goal, seemingly the only passageway in the cabin. Visually exploring the door with the light available, no lock can be found. The smooth steel surface offers a smudged portrait, broken by a hard line placed three quarters of the way into the door. A hefty wheel has been heaved to dead center on the door. No windows compromise the surface of the removable wall. I pivot around to survey the room again. No movements break the space other than my own. I casually drop my hand on the top of the wheel and attempt to spin it. Not a budge. As a second attempt, I place both hands at ten and two and heave in a counter-clockwise motion. Not a millimeter of give. I finally try placing my whole weight behind it. Pushing up with my legs and back, hugged up against the door for the most efficient angle possible. As I exert my energy to stay in a held-position, my strength begins failing without a dent placed on the wheel's front. Maybe I will not be getting out under my own will. I gradually shuffle back to my original seat. As I allow my body to sink back into the crater from my previous visit, I allow my head to fall back against the leather and perform the longest blink possible without being considered asleep. Curiously, a soft jazz melody begins to explore the room.
The leather and room cools down quickly, dispersing the energy generated from my migration attempt. As I restore light to my optics, my head gradually spins to the right, returning my gaze towards those strong windows. I find myself staring into a deep blue. Ghost shadows play in the expansive blue, dancing across the frame, both sprinting and crawling. I lose the window frame as the depth draws me in, searching for anything concrete to latch onto. A glint offers me that escape. One follows another, each one spawning another. Soon the frame becomes a mesmerizing shimmering field. I reach out to touch the barrier, instead activating a glint under finger. The soft warm glow commands the once shimmering surface, holding its position in the frame. I smash my face towards the glass in amazement and curiosity, having to move back slightly to cease from fogging the glass. Slowly sinking back into place, resigning to accept the lack of explanation, an echo-inducing creak revitalizes my adrenaline levels. As I sit immobilized on the bench, the door which absorbed all my efforts, heavily groans. Cautiously conquering the room, the muffled sound of a tapping foot enter through the newly created passage.